Mumbai: Hanukkah, Jewish festival of lights begins today

Besides illuminating the houses, there is also a deep-rooted tradition of relishing fried foods during the celebrations

Staff ReporterUpdated: Sunday, December 18, 2022, 03:47 AM IST
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Mumbai: The Jewish community in Mumbai and India will be celebrating the Hanukkah festival from today. Known as the festival of lights, the event goes on for eight days and the celebrations start after sunset as people illuminate their homes, synagogues and public places. A number of events are also organised at various places in the city.

Hanukkah is celebrated to mark the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. As per Chabad.org, a site that gives Jewish insight, in the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly-armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it.

“The story goes that when the menorah was found it had to be lit. Only one casket of oil was found that was not contaminated by the Greeks. However, the oil managed to light menorah for all the days and since then these histories have been the basis of the celebration,” said Elijah Jacob, another Jew.

A menorah or hanukkiah is a candelabrum and a candle is lit in it with each passing day of the festival. It has four candles on the left and four on the right with one in the middle. The middle one is called the Shammash or the service candle. The candles are lit from right to left as the Hebrew script is written that way.

“On Tuesday, we will be having a big event at the Magen Hassidim to mark Hanukkah,” said Ronen Bhonkar of the Magen Hassidim synagogue in Madanpura, which is considered one of the prominent synagogue in the city. Today, there is Hanukkah lighting at Gateway while on Thursday there is another event by children in Dadar. In Thane, where there is a large congregation of Jews, the Shaar Hashamaim synagogue will be celebrating the Hanukkah on Sunday night, which also marks its 143rd anniversary.

“During this period, many stay at home and light up hanukkiah. These are placed close to the windows to mark the festival,” explained Johny Jhirad. Besides lighting candles, people do prayers and fried items are relished as a mark  of the oil which burnt for eight days when the first hanukkiah was lit.

“We normally have deep fried items. Since Jewish community has been around for a while, we have local versions of deep fried items like bhajiyas,” said Mr Jacob.

Community people say...

During this period, many stay at home and light up hanukkiah. These are placed close to the windows to mark the festival.

We normally have deep fried items. Since Jewish community has been around for a while, we have local versions of deep fried items like bhajiyas.

On Tuesday, we will be having a big event at the Magen Hassidim, a prominent synagogue in Madanpura.

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